Open data: who thought of it first?
David Cameron’s open data policy is intended to make good his promise of government transparency. One thing is transparent: he’s perfectly happy to claim credit for a policy already well-launched by the last government.
And while some parts of the plan are new, such as publishing civil servants’ salaries if they earn more than £58,000 a year and listing all government spending of more than £25,000, some are not. The data on MRSA and C diff infections, due for publication tomorrow, have in fact been available for years. The only apparent difference will be that the data is weekly, rather than monthly, but that could be a drawback. “Too noisy” says one statistician who has published papers on the data.
More worrying to many proponents of open data is the decision to cut funding for the Institute for Web Science, a £30 million initiative launched by the Brown government and written out in the first £6 billion of cuts announced by the Cameron/Clegg government. Sir Tim Berners-Lee (pictured) and Professor Nigel Shadbolt, who were to run the institute, put the best face they could on it, saying that they understood that immediate decisions on public spending were needed, and that open government data remained a high priority.